It’s one of Preston’s quietest, most traditional and cherished public spaces.
But later this month, the normally serene Winckley Square is set to be taken over by scores of residents working up a sweat.
Top Lancashire athlete Helen Clitheroe is to launch an open-air city centre fitness class right in the middle of the Georgian square – aiming to get residents and visitors to dump the shopping bags and get some exercise.
The Preston runner, who competed in the Beijing and Sydney Olympics, will lead a 10-week programme, which starts in Winckley Square at 12.30pm on Tuesday.
And the sessions are aimed at beginners...so the emphasis will be on getting people started, rather than breaking any records.
Helen, 38, of Hutton, near Preston, will give participants advice, tips and hopefully inspiration, as they try walking or jogging for half an hour.
Helen, who is president of Preston Harriers Athletics Club, said: “It’s all about showing that running can be not only healthy and get your adrenalin pumping, but also sociable and a lot of fun.
“I’m very excited to be supporting the Run Lancashire groups and to be able to lead one myself. They are a great introduction to running and are fun and friendly sessions that go at your pace and help you to improve over the weeks.”
The event officially launches a project to start a series of small community running groups across the county, under the Lancashire Sports Partnership’s Run Lancashire scheme.
Anyone who gets the running bug during the Winckley Square event can be part of a social running group that will meet in the city centre from then on. The middle and long-distance runner Helen, who competed in the 1,500m event in Sydney in 2000 and in the 3,000m steeplechase in Beijing in 2008, and was a 1,500m bronze medallist at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, said all that was needed to take part was a pair of trainers.
She added: “Whether it is round the park at lunch with us, after the school run or in the evening and at weekends with friends, everyone can give it a go and improve their fitness as well as having fun and making new friends.”
The Run Lancashire scheme is part of the England Athletics recreational running programme, which aims to get the nation active through running.
It is hoped informal groups will spring up around Lancashire as other communities, workmates and clubs take part.
An initiative to train and fund leaders for these running groups will be announced soon. To find out more about the session visit www.lancashiresport.org.uk.